Only at 10: Former Tutwiler inmate talks about culture of cruelty

Julie Tutwiler Prison for Women. Source: Beth Shelburne/WBRC
Julie Tutwiler Prison for Women. Source: Beth Shelburne/WBRC
Inmates in the yard at Tutwiler. Source: Beth Shelburne/WBRC
Inmates in the yard at Tutwiler. Source: Beth Shelburne/WBRC

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A former Tutwiler inmate is speaking out about treatment by prison staff.

"They called us whores and sluts," Amy said.

Fifty-two-year-old Amy knows a lot about Tutwiler Prison for Women because she's served time there on six different occasions, beginning in 1986.

She's a former opiate addict whose substance abuse led to a life of crime, including convictions for theft, check forgery and credit card fraud. Amy reached out to FOX6 News because she wanted to speak out about the "mental cruelty" of Tutwiler and the emotional suffering she says female inmates endure when they serve time at the prison. She believes because of the overcrowding, a violent environment and cruel treatment by staff, most women come out of Tutwiler worse off than when they went in.

Two recent federal reports document abuse at the prison, most recently a January 2014 letter to Governor Robert Bentley from the U.S. Department of Justice. In the letter, officials say corrections officers have raped, beaten and harassed women inside Tutwiler for at least 18 years. It describes a "toxic, sexualized environment" inside the prison, that included an inmate "strip show condoned by staff" and sexual abuse that is "grossly underreported."

Amy says the widespread use of profanity and derogatory names is especially demoralizing to incarcerated women.

"These women have been berated, put down and stomped on all their lives," she explains about the women in Tutwiler Prison. "Their pride, their esteem has been overwhelmed by what they've been through. Every day, they called us bitches and whores and sluts."

Tonight on FOX6 News at 10, hear more from this inmate, who's not proud of what she's done, but wants people in Alabama to hear about her experiences.

We also speak to Alabama Prison Commissioner Kim Thomas about new training and education for staff to help change the culture of Tutwiler Prison for Women.

You can watch on air, online at FoxAlabamaLive.com and through the WBRC News app.

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